written by sabrina forse | photos provided by texas business women and sabrina forse
A one-hundred-year fight for equality for women is now empowering females to thrive while exercising those rights. In 2020, a San Angelo woman will lead the charge for a state-wide organization. Laura Whisenhunt is the President-Elect of Texas Business Women and will become President during the organization’s state convention in San Angelo in June.
Texas Business Women of San Angelo volunteers at an annual Community Day event at Sunset Mall.
Formerly known as the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Club, Texas Business Women celebrated its 100th anniversary June 2019. Texas Business Women of San Angelo will celebrate its 97th year in May 2020. “Back then women couldn’t apply for a car loan without a man. I can’t imagine not being able to control my own finances or sign my children into the hospital without a husband’s signature. Women didn’t have an identity then,” said Whisenhunt.
Under the leadership of Hermine Tobolowsky, the state organization lobbied for equal legal rights and was instrumental in the 1972 passage of Texas’s constitutional amendment seven. The measure stated that no one should be denied equality under the law on basis of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.“I’m thankful for our sisters that fought for equal pay and equality. It’s a great time to be a woman. The rights we have today shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Laura poses with fellow Texas Business Women from across the state at the 2018 conference. In addition to empowering women, Texas Business Women encourages women to be the best version of themselves.
Whisenhunt grew up in Miles and graduated from Angelo State University. She has been working at San Angelo Federal Credit Union for the past twenty-two years and is now the President and CEO. “My passion for Texas Business Women relates directly to my passion at work. I was blessed to have bosses that saw my dedication and commitment so I could make the credit union my career and home.” Whisenhunt went to her first Texas Business Women meeting in San Angelo nineteen years ago when she was Loan Officer.
“I was very shy at the time. Business Professional Women offered an individual development program which truly made me a believer in the club. They taught their mission and helped me develop skills and find that self-confidence.”
Laura installs and congratulates the new 2019-2020 Texas Business Women of San Angelo Board Members.
The organization’s mission is to enhance professional and personal skills while equipping women with the tools they need to succeed. Local organizations like San Angelo offer monthly networking meetings where members can connect with other women. Some members are entrepreneurs while others work for non-profits, local businesses and corporations. Their job skills vary but all desire the opportunity to connect with others and to lead. A course called Communicating with Confidence allows women the opportunity to enhance their public speaking skills. The state-wide organization offers business and leadership podcasts and other educational resources.
As Whisenhunt worked her way through the ranks at San Angelo Federal Credit Union, she found herself in a position to act upon skills she learned through Texas Business Women. “One of our trainings in the club was learning to negotiate your worth. I discovered there was discrepancy in employee salaries; equal pay for equal work is one of the missions for Texas Business Women. So, when I was in a position to do so, I made sure the pay scales at the credit union were fair and consistent.”
Laura Whisenhunt gives Ann Burmeister recognition for her sevice.
In addition to empowering women, Texas Business Women encourages women to be the best version of themselves. “I didn’t feel I was worthy to be on the state board with such high caliber women but the other ladies encouraged me every step of the way. I’ve served as state secretary, Vice-President and now President Elect. The other women have shown me love and encouragement. They are my tribe of women who give that gentle push you feel on the small of your back that makes you believe in yourself.”
Donna Hammons is the new 2019-2020 president of the local group, Texas Business Women of San Angelo.
Texas Business Women caters to 300 members statewide across twelve chapters. With eighty members San Angelo is one of the strongest and most active in the state. “We have a lot of new members with new ideas. I love that we are growing.” Increasing membership state-wide is one of Whisenhunt’s goals as she becomes President. She is working with the current President to develop a strategic plan. “We want to approach Texas Business Women like we would our businesses which means creating a five-year strategic plan. We want to improve communication across the state. We want to make sure we’re listening to our members and providing them with the resources that they need and offering topics that are relevant. We may add a fall and spring conference so there are more networking opportunities.”
Laura poses with fellow Texas Business Women at the 2017 conference in a pose that says women are getting stuff done.
Texas Business Women caters to 300 members statewide across twelve chapters. With eighty members San Angelo is one of the strongest and most active in the state.
Creating that connection is one that Whisenhunt firmly believes is key to not only personal but professional development. “It’s the old adage, it’s not what you know but who you know in San Angelo. Create your spider-web of networks.” As she steps into the role of President, Whisenhunt encourages other women to develop their own connections. “When I start listening to someone, I’m already thinking about who I can connect them with and how I can help. It’s important to me to create that connection or make the introduction that can help a person succeed. I don’t think you can afford not be a member of Texas Business Women because of what it has done for me and what it means to me - in my heart of hearts and how it’s helped me develop my skills personally and professionally.” †